Charlie Melancon’s Vancouver Problem

It seems over the weekend, Rep. Charlie Melancon, Democrat candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by David Vitter, took a trip up to Canada to attend a confab of trial lawyers who were having a meeting that included a roster of Democrat senatorial candidates.

Melancon’s presence at that get-together appears to be growing in its significance to his race against Vitter – and not in a way the Congressman would like.

Yesterday afternoon, the Vitter campaign put out a release slamming Melancon for attending a reception for The Committee For A Better Future, a campaign arm of what used to be called the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and now dubs itself the American Association for Justice (which is only slightly Orwellian, but there you have it). The reception was Sunday, and Melancon’s name was on the roster of bigwigs slated to attend along with such Democrat luminaries as Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal, Missouri Secretary of State and Senate candidate Robin Carnahan, AAJ/ATLA Past President Roxanne Conlin of Iowa, who is running against Chuck Grassley for a Senate seat, Kentucky Attorney General and Senate candidate Jack Conway, County Executive and Delaware Senate candidate Chris Coons, Indiana Congressman and Senate candidate Brad Ellsworth, Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Senate candidate Lee Fisher, Illinois State Treasurer and Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias, New Hampshire Congressman and Senate candidate Paul Hodes and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

It’s an extremely left-wing group, and other than Blumenthal all of the Senate candidates on hand for that event are either losing their races to Republicans or tied at best. But the AAJ put on an event to help reverse their fortunes, while running pictures of oiled birds on their website and articles suggesting changes to the law so as to make suing people easier for Gulf oil spill torts.

Melancon has clammed up about his Vancouver trip on Sunday. He’s not alone. In Chicago, Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet pried an admission out of Giannoulias’ campaign that he was there, and also uncovered the fact that admission for AAJ members to the event ranged from $250 for the proletarians to $43,000 for the fatcats. Reid pulled 20 percent of that take, and Bennet 9.3 percent, while the rest of the group – Melancon included – picked up 7.07 percent each.

Reid’s take became fodder for a National Republican Senatorial Committee blast, as well as some pointed barbs from his opponent Sharron Angle’s campaign:

“Could Harry Reid be anymore out of touch to think that leaving the United States to raise campaign cash is appropriate while Nevada tops the nation with 14 percent unemployment? What was Harry Reid thinking and, more importantly, where exactly are his priorities?” asked National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh, in a release put out Monday morning by the NRSC.

The campaign of Reid’s Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, followed with their own statement a few hours later.

“Harry Reid says that ‘no one can do more’ for Nevada, so why does he have to leave the country to pad his war chest? It seems callous,” says Angle campaign spokesman Jerry Stacy, in the statement.

Melancon, of course, got off no easier, as Vitter campaign spokesman Luke Bolar took aim at him yesterday afternoon:

“The ‘Canada First’ tour must not have sounded quite as nice for the Melancon campaign kick-off,” Luke Bolar, spokesman for David Vitter for U.S. Senate said. “It looks like Melancon went up to Canada to raise campaign contributions from trial lawyers who will be retiring off of Louisiana families. If that’s the case, I’m sure Melancon’s constituents want to know why he was meeting with trial lawyers in Canada instead of Louisianians first.”

Vitter’s campaign release also noted that he has proposed a cap of five percent on attorney fees in Gulf oil spill cases, which looks like political gold given Melancon’s fundraising trips in Vancouver.

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